QUOTE(Udi John @ 05/15/07 12:01 AM) [snapback]109268[/snapback]
Barukh haba...welcome to the forum. Where in Israel do you live? I lived in Akko in 1993.
Interesting about the genetic study of Assyrians. As one with a social science background (mostly sociology), I tend to be skeptical about scientific "proofs" about people's physical origins. I know about the Y-chromosome testing that was done a few years ago among various Jewish communities and between Jews and others (found the closest genetic match to all Jews--even Ashkenazi Jews--to be found among Palestinians, Lebanese and Syrians). What I don't understand is how one could genetically test living Assyrian Christians for a match with the long-dead ancient pagan Assyrians.
As far as Hosank's comment that languages would be expected to change over 2,000 years, this is obviously true. However, there must be some Assyrian Aramaic/Syriac texts available to study which are closer in time to that of the Assyrian Empire. Do these texts tend to demonstrate that earlier Assyrian Aramaic was closer to (or the same as) Akkadian?
I suspect that this discussion of the language of Assyria (taken from Wikipedia) is a fair summary of scholarly opinon, which views Akkadian and Aramaic as different languages:
"The ancient people of Assyria spoke an Assyrian dialect of the Akkadian language, a branch of the Semitic languages. The first inscriptions, called Old Assyrian (OA), were made in the Old Assyrian period. In the Neo-Assyrian period the Aramaic language became increasingly common, more so than Akkadian - this was thought to be largely due to the mass deportations undertaken by Assyrian kings, in which large Aramaic-speaking populations, conquered by the Assyrians, were relocated to other parts of the empire. The ancient Assyrians also used the Sumerian language in their literature and liturgy, although to a more limited extent in the Middle- and Neo-Assyrian periods, when Akkadian became the main literary language." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assyria#Language)
A similar situation, I think, exists with respect to the Copts of Egypt. They regard themselves as the descendants of Pharaonic Egypt. I suspect that this claim is only true in a cultural
sense. That is, I don't see any reason to regard Copts as being the physical descendants of Pharaonic Egyptians moreso than other Egyptians (i.e., Muslim Arabs), but they have preserved a form of the ancient Egyptian language in their liturgy, though written in a modified Greek alphabet. (I believe that scholars generally agree that Coptic is recognizably a form of ancient Egyptian language(s).)
Like the Copts, the Assyrian Christians clearly deserve a great deal of credit (and respect) for preserving important elements of the culture of pre-Islamic, pre-Arabization Fertile Crescent in their religion (Eastern Christianity) and language (Syriac/Aramaic). At the same time, I am not convinced that there is enough evidence to prove that Assyrian Christians (and Chaldean Christians) are direct physical descendants of the ancient empire(s) more than other peoples living in the region.
By the way, has anyone read this book, which happens to be by an Israeli scholar? Is it worth the $45 + shipping: http://www.amazon.com/Minorities-Middle-Ea...n/dp/0786413751
I live in tel-aviv.
Regarding the Assyrians, quoting from the relevant research:
Analysis of the Assyrians shows that they have a distinct genetic profile that distinguishes their population from any other population. "It is important to understand that this applies to the population as a whole, not to any one individual."
The study thus does two things: it confirms the uniqueness of the Assyrian population as a whole, and it establishes genetics as a major criterion of a population group, potentially overriding elements such as language, religion, and other social and historical components which were formerly considered to be primary determinants. (David Nissman)
it's not solid proof, but it's as close as one can get, and considering linguistic traditions and the lack of other predominant or even possible theory, i'd give them the benefit of the doubt at least.
but overall i'm pretty unhappy about mixing genetics with politics. i'd also give the copts the benefit of the doubt. i've had the chance to talk to some copts and was quite pleased to see their survival through the ages. they attest to a great history as well.